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27 Aug 2021 | 13:13

In July 2021 the Government released an update to its Green Book, the gold standard of policy and project evaluation which includes supplementary guidance on wellbeing. The guidance provides an excellent overview of wellbeing, and introduces a new, simpler measure of economic value called the ‘WELLBY’. In this joint blog Kelly Smith, Insight and Engagement Officer for the Sport for Development Coalition, and Lizzie Trotter, Head of Social Impact and Wellbeing for Coalition partner State of Life, explain why this is good news for the Coalition as it aims to shake up the evidence of the value of investment in sport for development. 

Momentum has been building over the past 12 months, with more and more organisations across the Coalition’s growing network coming together to join our ongoing efforts to build the case for sport for development and provide evidence of its contribution to tackling key social issues. 

More than 50 organisations have already committed to implementing shared measures – alongside their own qualitative and context specific monitoring and evaluation (M&E) processes – by using the Coalition’s Collective Survey Tool and Reporting Dashboard, developed in partnership with State of Life. There’s still space for more organisations to join before the deadline of September 22nd.


One of the organisations that has committed to implementing shared measurement is London Borough of Hounslow Swimming Club, which offers high-quality swimming provision to children, young people and adults, promoting social integration and tackling inequalities in swimming. Head coach Lisa Graham explained why they chose to join the initiative: “With limited prior knowledge or experience in data collection, the Collective Survey Tool is straightforward to use with pre-loaded surveys providing easy-to-access data to help us improve our service and use as evidence for funders and stakeholders. Importantly, the anonymous surveys give our young members the opportunity to express their opinions, thoughts and feelings about their wellbeing and the programme we offer.” 

The Green Book update is good timing for the Coalition – which is made up of more than 200 organisations and networks over-arching thousands of impactful projects and programmes across the UK – since the latest guidance from Government upgrades wellbeing to a central role in the assessment of the benefits and costs to society. As one of the few sectors in the UK currently taking a sector-wide approach to measuring these impacts consistently, sport for development really is leading the charge. 

This new guidance incorporates the WELLBY approach, which is short for ‘Wellbeing-adjusted Life Year’ – a term coined by Paul Frijters and Chistian Krekel in their ‘A Handbook for Wellbeing Policy-making’. It is defined as a change in life satisfaction of one point on a scale of zero to 10, affecting one person for one year. This approach endorses and supports the widely-held view that overall ‘life satisfaction’ is the best survey question to measure personal wellbeing (almost always alongside associated drivers of life satisfaction, eg employment, physical activity, volunteering, mental health, community wellbeing, education and skills development, and socio-economic status). 

The good news for the Coalition is that life satisfaction and all of the associated drivers of wellbeing are include in its Collective Survey Tool and Reporting Dashboard, capturing the primary and wider outcomes of participation. Importantly, the Tool also draws on validated questions from UK population surveys. We know that utilising common questions and collecting consistent data will help in creating larger, anonymised and representative sport for development datasets which are consistent with, and so can be compared against national level data. This will assist in understanding, learning from and articulating the collective impact of sport for development approaches as well as making the case for supportive policy and funding provision – not least around the Government’s efforts to build back better from the pandemic and its ‘Levelling Up’ agenda.


Crucially, Coalition Supporter Organisations can monitor and evaluate the impact of their work which Ceris Anderson, Head of Data & Insight at StreetGames, reports as a challenge for the ‘locally-trusted organisations’ that the national charity works with. Ceris explains: “We know from talking to community organisations that many find evidencing impact a real challenge. For some, the main challenges relate to a lack of time and resources, or getting buy-in whilst for others it’s around knowing what to do, when, how and what tools might help. 

“This is where the Collective Survey Tool can be really helpful,” she adds. “It’s quick and easy for respondents to fill in and can be deployed either using tablets and mobile phones in sessions or it can be sent out via an online link, or even done through a paper version. 

“For StreetGames and community organisations in its network, the Tool offers a really good way of capturing evidence on outcomes, including physical activity, wellbeing, resilience, loneliness and belonging that are relevant to a range of key agendas.” Chapter 5 of the new Green Book guidance outlines the importance of estimating the causal effect of a programme on wellbeing; in other words, how many WELLBYs a project is responsible for generating. This is essentially the difference between the average life satisfaction of the treatment group (participating in the programme) and a control group (not participating the programme).


The crux is to ensure that any identified benefits are due to the programme and not some other factor, a question which is often overlooked. Crucially for the Coalition, alongside putting forward the WELLBY, the new wellbeing guidance from the Treasury endorses our approach to “use validated measures... that are consistent with existing measures” which also provide that crucial comparison and control group dataset. 

The WELLBY heralds a welcome advance in measuring social value. Previous methods have often been opaque and/or protected behind proprietary business models, where as the WELLBY offers the sector a simple, open valuation method which can be used once the more involved job of establishing causal impact has been completed. Furthermore, a considerable strength of the WELLBY is that the value is pegged to the NHS QALY (Quality-adjusted Life Year) which is used by the NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) and the NHS to assess the cost effectiveness of health interventions, for example around drug efficacy. By utilising the WELLBY, sport for development practitioners can draw on an extra layer of credibility and relevance when evidencing and demonstrating their contribution to wellbeing and preventative health.


We believe the launch of the Collective Survey Tool and Reporting Dashboard is an important step in the need to balance context-specific and shared measurement approaches across the sport for development sector, and establishing a sector-wide dataset – at scale – on wider outcomes, beyond participation and physical activity. Until now there have been strong examples of individual organisational learning, plus qualitative and context-specific case studies from across the sector, but there is still a gap when it comes to aggregated quantitative measures at scale. Collecting quantitative data at scale to sit alongside individual learning and qualitative data will help the sector to speak with a stronger and more united voice when we come together to advocate for policy change and supportive funding frameworks. 

Sign up to the Collective Survey Tool and Reporting Dashboard here.